Allergy Emergencies – Using the Epi Pen

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EpipenThe physicians comprising the Allergy and Asthma Associates, or AACOS, continually diagnose, treat and educate patients with allergies. For some, allergic reactions become life-threatening, which necessitates using an emergency epi pen.

The emergency may occur within minutes after becoming exposed to a trigger substance. The reaction involves the immune system interpreting an allergen as a threat. The body immediately signals antibodies, which release chemicals that create a number of symptoms. These symptoms may include hives, itching and swelling. More severe reactions jeopardize the airway and include throat-closing, chest-tightening and wheezing as swelling and inflammation travel inward.

The emergency requires an epi pen when available. The device contains a predetermined amount of medication called epinephrine. Using an emergency epi pen requires removing the device from its protective container. The person intending to administer the medication must then grasp the pen firmly, with orange tip pointing downward. Remove the blue safety lid on the top of the pen. At a 90-degree angle, forcefully push the orange tip of the epi pen into the patient’s outer thigh until hearing a click. Hold the pen in place for approximately 10 seconds. There is no need to remove clothing. Following administration, massage the site for another 10 seconds. Call for emergency assistance, and place the device back into its carrying case.

Food Allergies

Foods that most often trigger an allergy emergency include cow’s milk, eggs and nuts, along with shellfish, soy and wheat flour. The severity of the reaction depends on a variety of factors that include the amount of the causative food consumed, whether the food was cooked, processed or raw and whether other foods were ingested with the allergen. Some patients are so sensitive to certain foods that even smelling a food or being in the same room where it is being cooked can trigger a severe reaction.

Insect Bites or Stings

Under normal circumstances, bites or stings resolve with little or no intervention. However, around 4 percent of the population experience an allergy emergency that may become a life-threatening situation. These people generally learn to take extra precautions when outdoors and typically carry an epi pen. Patients with an insect allergy can usually be desensitized to this allergic reaction with allergy shots.


Most never give a second thought to the many everyday items that contain latex rubber. However, around 10 percent of the population experience severe reactions to the substance, which poses a health risk. Careful avoidance of high levels of latex, such as that found in latex gloves, balloons or condoms is very important to these patients.


While any medication can cause an allergic reaction, some of the most common culprits include penicillin, other antibiotics, aspirin, ibuprofen, insulin, pain medications, and cancer medications. Susceptible patients often wear a medical alert bracelet in the event of an emergency, which cautions healthcare providers against administering the medication.

If you have any questions or concerns about allergy emergencies or how to use your epi-pen the providers at AACOS would be glad to help.  To make an appointment call 719-473-0872 or toll free 800-634-1741

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